Dawes, Shovels & Rope
As soon as Shovels & Rope took the stage and announced they were from Charleston, South Carolina, the crowd, mostly made up of Angelenos who, one would imagine, haven't been to a hoedown, began attempting to square dance.
Despite their minimal instrumental set-up, the husband and wife duo were a powerhouse. Cary Ann Hearst struck bluesy, raspy chords with her vocals and guitar, while Michael Trent poured himself into his harmonica and three-piece drum set. Their songs sounded like a mixture of Dolly Parton's sweet bellows and a Raconteurs' era Jack White.
After a quick instrument swap, the duo performed a fantastic cover of The Violent Femmes' "Kiss Off." Later, they strummed and pedal-kicked into their hit-single "Birmingham," off their debut album, O' Be Joyful. The stripped-down rawness of this tune was refreshingly not ironic.
Next, Dawes took the stage; the bros in attendance seemed to leave, quickly replaced by bearded men, cross-armed in their flannels and cardigans.
For the Americana-folk group, known for their Laurel Canyon sound, it was their first Los Angeles show in over a year, and ex-member Blake Mills joined them in their homecoming. Mills, known as a top guitarist in the industry -- he's collaborated with artists including Fiona Apple, Norah Jones and Danger Mouse -- brought gorgeous layers of impeccable instrumentation to match Taylor Goldsmith's strumming.
They opened with "Most People," an energetic, bouncy jam, evocative of Jackson Browne. This lead into "If I Wanted Someone," nostalgic of Neil Young era classic rock and the quirky lyricism of Warren Zevon. Next was the plucky "Someone Will," from their latest album, Stories Don't End, released in April. Mills' guitar added a saturated twang to the jumpy tune. As Goldsmith sang "And if nobody's loved you enough, I know now someone will," he charmed every girl in the room, probably even the ones already being swung around, hoe-down style, by their boyfriends.
Their harmonies captured the soulful echoes of canyon-rockers Crosby, Stills, and Nash, and Griffin Goldsmith's drums were reminiscent of the crisp beats of Hall & Oates. Bassist Wylie Gebler showed off his groove-abilities throughout the show's many folksy jam-sessions. For being a group of twenty-somethings, they did the whole authentic throwback thing pretty well.
Especially when they took on a smoother, sultrier layer. Tempos slowed and lighters raised as Mills' and Goldsmith's vocals settled over a swaying, violet-washed crowd. Mills took the lead with "Don't Tell our Friends About Me," a tune that begs, "I know I fucked up, I know I fucked up...But babe, don't tell all our friends about me." After Mills broke into a seamless guitar solo, I was pretty sure I could forgive him for just about anything.
Their musicianship was...maybe a little too perfect. By the time they played their biggest hit, "When My Time Comes," their infallible sound had become numbing, and there came a point around song 14 out of a setlist of nearly 20, when I had accepted that Dawes and Mills were fantastic artists, but I wasn't sure if I could make it to the encore.
The band played for a little over two hours, also a throwback to jam-bands of the '60s and '70s. But Dawes is not the Grateful Dead. Nor are they Elvis Costello; they are incredibly talented musicians, but I didn't need 37 awesome guitar-solos to prove that. Judging by the girl next to me who fell asleep before the encore, she didn't need them either.
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